An auction, new terrain interstate, and open-pit coal mine...

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Yesterday, my three oldest grandsons and I went on an expedition to southwest Indiana. I'm big on I-69 and wanted them to see progress progressing. Gov. Mitch Daniels is way ahead of schedule building the Evansville to Bloomington segment, and so there are a number of places where the work is being done within eyesight of other roads. We watched the men and machines and it was just drop-dead georgous.

Then we stopped at the Daviess County Produce Auction. I gave my eldest grandson, Jonathan, my auction card so he could bid on some okra and cucumbers. He did a fine job, getting the okra for $1.50 per pint and the cukes for $5 per peck...

After the auction, it was off to eat lunch at Knepp's Country Cafe, an Amish buffet west of Montgomery on Hwy. 50/150. Jonathan, Nathan, and I ate selectively, sampling a number of items from popcorn shrimp with cocktail sauce to dressing and gravy. Not Josiah, though: he picked up his plate, loaded it sky-high with macaroni and cheese--I mean we're talking a mountain of the stuff--then added a pile of mashed potatoes with a ladle of gravy poured over the top, and that was it. He started to talk instead of eating, so I told him to eat instead of talking, but I needn't have worried. Not another sound out of him until he came up for air about fifteen minutes later. His plate was clean and he was quiet. Then after a few minutes, he leaned back against the booth and let out a sigh and explaimed, "I can't believe I ate all that food!"
We laughed. Ten minutes later we were all done with our meat and carbohydrates, and our waitress came up with the big tray of pies. We each chose a piece and polished off every last bit before getting up to pay and continue our expedition.
Now it was time to explore the back roads of Amish country. We happened on a sanitary landfill, then an open-pit coal mine. We decided to explore.

Finding the mine's entrance road, we drove in past the slurry pond and up onto the mountains for a little off-roading in our Honda Accord. We dragged the bottom of the car a number of times and had to back up a one-lane almost-vertical road after it became apparent we were about to get in the way of a huge earthmover. It was fun.

We backed up the mountain for about two-hundred yards or so, around curves while crunching rocks beneath us. We worked hard to stay ahead of the huge beast of an earthmover. When our evasion and rock-crunching was over, I glanced in the back seat and saw eldest grandson, Jonathan, with his head down deep in a book. I was amazed! So much adventure and so little interest! So I aked whether he'd been reading to take his mind off what was going on and he said, "yes." Some people close their eyes and others read books. I wished I'd had a book when we were four-wheeling above Ouray a couple years ago.

During the open-pit expedition, we stopped and talked to one the mine's foremen and he gave us a disquisition on President Obama's war on coal. I was entirely sympathetic being both a coal and open-pit lover. Strike three, right? Coal, open-pit mines, and new-terrain interstate highways. I've come a long way since 1974 when I pierced my left ear and read Barry Commoner. As Dylan puts it, "Ah, but I was so much older, then; I'm younger than that now."

Since a number of youth group work trips to Letcher County, Kentucky, in high school, I've loved coal. The smell of it burning brings a nostalgic bliss over me, so when we built our house two and a half years ago, I did my best to figure out how I could have a coal-burning fireplace insert. I failed. Apparently the inserts can't withstand coal's high temperatures--even cooler burning high-sulfur bituminous.

But hope springs eternal in this human pest. So if you know a way I can do it, write right away.

Before some of you reach high dudgeon, our children were part of the Harvard Six Cities Study and American Cancer Society Study of Particulate Air Pollution and Mortality when we lived just east of the Portage Wisconsin Power & Light coal-fired plant on the banks of the Wisconsin River. We weren't bother-ed by coal-fired plants then and we aren't bother-ed by them now. Just use scrubbers. God made the coal and it's going to burn sooner or later.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!